The Prestige: The WrestleMania Main Event

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The Showcase of the Immortals.

The Grandest Stage of Them All.

The Super Bowl of Professional Wrestling.

No matter what you call it, WrestleMania has become a part of professional wrestling’s very fabric, not just in the WWE, but around the globe. For a week leading up to it, the WWE takes over the host city with media blitzes and it’s interactive Fan Axxess, while indie promotions from around the world descend as well, putting on showcases and events to maximize their own brand’s potential to an onslaught of wrestling enthusiasts from countries around the world. And since it was created in 1985, every young wrestler has dreamed of one day being in the WrestleMania Main Event.

Photo: WWE

For years, fans and purists have argued what exactly is “The Main Event’ of a WrestleMania? Is it indeed the last match of the evening or the match with the most allure? In traditional combat sports, such as UFC, the Main Event is indeed the last match of the card. In some instances, they have co-main events, where the top two matches are considered Main Events. In some circles, people argue that the WWE often has multiple WrestleMania Main Events – at the height of The Streak, it was fair to say that The Undertaker‘s matches – most often with no title on the line or the final match of the night – was just as big a spectacle as the final match-up.

Photo: WWE

Another argument from many internet fans is that certain wrestlers have “earned” their spot in the WrestleMania Main Event – sometimes with legitimate arguments such as draw or popularity, although in most it almost seems that fans today seem to think that tenure deserves a spot, simply for “paying their dues”. But since the days of wrestling’s earliest days, the Main Event of any card – from Gotch vs Hackenschmidt to Wrestle Kingdom 11, Main Events are the match that the promoters feel is the biggest draw.

Rumoured Main Event for WrestleMania 34

So the question remains. Is the WrestleMania Main Event, really as big a prestige as fans – and in many cases the wrestlers themselves – think it is? After all, WrestleMania is more a celebration of the WWE’s past year – where storylines often find their resolutions (and new ones are born) – as well as a celebration of it’s lengthening and rich past. People forget that the WWE is over 60 years old and has fans from every Era that still watch. They bring back Legends (or “part timers”) because they have the history to do so, and the fan base that on a whole (the internet community not withstanding) appreciates these rare appearances.

Photo: WWE

Since WrestleMania debuted in 1985, there have been 32 Main Events, with it’s 33rd now set in stone. And out of the hundreds upon hundreds of wrestlers who have passed through the WWE since 1985, only thirty-four men have taken part in a WrestleMania Main Event. Here’s a quick look at those men:

  1. Hulk Hogan, 8 Main Events (WM 1-3, 5-9)
  2. Triple H, 7 Main Events (WM 16, 18, 20-22, 25, 32)
  3. John Cena, 5 Main Events (WM 22, 23, 27, 28, 29)
  4. The Rock, 5 Main Events (WM 15-17, 28, 29)
  5. Shawn Michaels, 5 Main Events (WM 12, 14, 20, 23, 26)
  6. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, 3 Main Events (WM 14, 15, 17)
  7. The Undertaker, 3 Main Events (WM 13, 24, 26)
  8. Brock Lesnar, 3 Main Events (WM 19, 31, 33)

Tied with two (2) Main Events: “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Yokozuna, Bret “Hitman” Hart, Sid Vicious, Randy Orton, Batista, Roman Reigns

Tied with one (1) Main Event: Goldberg, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Edge, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, The Big Show, Sgt. Slaughter, Ultimate Warrior, King Kong Bundy, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, Bam Bam Bigelow, Lawrence Taylor, Chris Jericho, Mr. T

Photo: WWE

Yes. That’s right. At WrestleMania XI, Bam Bam Bigelow vs. NFL star Lawrence Taylor was your closing Main Event. Because, at the end of the day, it’s the match-up that the most eyes want to see. And while wrestling purists will pick Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat as THE match of WrestleMania III, it was the Main Event of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant that drew the eyes to the event in the first place. Hindsight of which match was “better” doesn’t change the narrative going into WrestleMania.

Photo: WWE

So with that being said, knowing that those 33 men have been a part of the WrestleMania Main Event, how many of those were World Title matches? Surely the final match of every WrestleMania was for their top prize right? Wrong. Well, the Bam Bam vs LT should have been the first indicator, but there have been several Main Events that didn’t involve the title, including the very first one, featuring Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Piper and Orndorff, as well as WrestleMania 8 (Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice), WrestleMania 26 (The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels) and WrestleMania 28 (John Cena vs. The Rock). But apart from those spectacles, including WrestleMania 33, there have been 39 men who have competed for a World title (WWE or World Heavyweight) at WrestleMania, competing in 44 total matches. Here’s a look at those men who have fought for the top titles in the WWE at WrestleMania, Main Event or not:

Photo: WWE
  1. Triple H, 9 Title Matches, WM 16, 18-22, 24, 25, 32
  2. John Cena, 8 Title Matches, WM 21-27, 29
  3. Hulk Hogan, 6 Title Matches, WM 2, 3, 5-7, 9
  4. Shawn Michaels, 5 Title Matches, WM 11, 12, 14, 20, 23
  5. Randy Orton, 5 Title Matches, WM 22, 24, 25, 30, 33
  6. The Rock, 4 Title Matches, WM 15-17, 29
  7. Batista, 4 Title Matches, WM 21, 23, 26, 30
  8. Edge, 4 Title Matches, WM 24-27
  9. “Macho Man” Randy Savage, 3 Title Matches, WM 4, 5, 8
  10. The Undertaker, 3 Title Matches, WM 13, 23, 24
  11. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, 3 Title Matches, WM 14, 15, 17
  12. Chris Jericho, 3 Title Matches, WM 18, 26, 28
  13. Kurt Angle, 3 Title Matches, WM 19, 20, 22
  14. Brock Lesnar, 3 Title Matches, WM 19, 31, 33

Tied with two (2) Title Matches: Yokozuna (9, 10), Bret Hart (10, 12), The Big Show (16, 25), Alberto Del Rio (27, 29), Daniel Bryan (28, 30), Roman Reigns (31, 32)

Tied with one (1) Title Match: “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase (4), King Kong Bundy (2), Andre the Giant (3), Ultimate Warrior (6), Sgt. Slaughter (7), Ric Flair (8), “Diesel” Kevin Nash (11), “Psycho” Sid Vicious (13), Mick Foley (16), Chris Benoit (20), Booker T (19), Eddie Guerrero (20), JBL (21), Rey Mysterio Jr. (22), The Miz (27), Sheamus (28), CM Punk (28), Jack Swagger (29), Seth Rollins (31)

Which comes down to what match, in hindsight, has become the match that defined that years WrestleMania? Because ultimately those are the matches that are ultimately remembered by more fans that which one went on last. Was “The Main Event” really the prestige historically that many fans insist it is? Sure, many had their moments – Hogan slamming Andre is perhaps the most historic moment in WrestleMania history, but it’s not one of the matches that people remember for it’s entirety.

WrestleMania
Main Event: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (w/ Jimmy Snuka) vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff (w/          Cowboy ‘Ace’ Bob Orton)
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 2
Main Event: Hulk Hogan (WC) vs. King Kong Bundy
Best Match: Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T in a Boxing Match

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania III
Main Event: Hulk Hogan (WC) vs. Andre the Giant
Best Match in Hindsight: Randy Savage (IC) vs. Ricky Steamboat

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania IV
Main Event: Randy Savage vs. Million Dollar Man
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania V
Main Event: Randy Savage (WC) vs. Hulk Hogan
Best Match in Hindsight:: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania VI
Main Event: Hulk Hogan (WC) vs. Ultimate Warrior (IC)
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania VII
Main Event: Sgt. Slaughter (WC) vs. Hulk Hogan
Best Match in Hindsight: The Undertaker vs. Jimmy Snuka (1st Match of the Streak)

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania VIII
Main Event: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice
Best Match in Hindsight: Ric Flair (WC) vs. Randy Savage

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania IX
Main Event: Yokozuna (WC) vs. Hulk Hogan
Best Match in Hindsight: Bret Hart (WC) vs. Yokozuna

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania X
Main Event: Yokozuna (WC) vs. Bret Hart
Best Match in Hindsight: IC Ladder Match – Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XI
Main Event: Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor
Best Match in Hindsight: Diesel (WC) vs. Shawn Michaels

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XII
Main Event: Bret Hart (WC) vs. Shawn Michaels
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XIII
Main Event: The Undertaker (WC) vs. Psycho Sid
Best Match in Hindsight: Bret Hart vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – Submission Match

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XIV
Main Event: Shawn Michaels (WC) vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XV
Main Event: The Rock (WC) vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 2000
Main Event: Triple H (WC) vs. Mick Foley vs. The Rock vs. The Big Show
Best Match in Hindsight: Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania X-Seven
Main Event: The Rock (WC) vs. ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania X-8
Main Event: Chris Jericho (WC) vs. Triple H
Best Match in Hindsight: The Rock vs. ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XIX
Main Event: Kurt Angle (WC) vs. Brock Lesnar
Best Match in Hindsight: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XX
Main Event: Triple H (WC) vs. Chris Benoit vs. Shawn Michaels
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 21
Main Event: Triple H (WC) vs. Batista
Best Match in Hindsight: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 22
Main Event: John Cena (WC) vs. Triple H
Best Match in Hindsight: Edge vs. Mick Foley

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 23
Main Event: John Cena (WC) vs. Shawn Michaels
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XXIV
Main Event: Edge (WC) vs. The Undertaker
Best Match in Hindsight: Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XXV
Main Event: Triple H (WC) vs. Randy Orton
Best Match in Hindsight: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XXVI
Main Event: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XXVII
Main Event: The Miz (WC) vs. John Cena
Best Match in Hindsight: The Undertaker vs. Triple H

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XXVIII
Main Event: John Cena vs. The Rock
Best Match in Hindsight: CM Punk (WC) vs. Chris Jericho

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 29
Main Event: The Rock (WC) vs. John Cena
Best Match in Hindsight: The Undertaker vs. CM Punk

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania XXX
Main Event: Randy Orton (WC) vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan
Best Match in Hindsight: While the moment at the end of the main event was more memorable,        Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H was the better match

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 31
Main Event: Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins
Best Match in Hindsight: The Main Event

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 32
Main Event: Triple H (WC) vs. Roman Reigns
Best Match in Hindsight: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

Photo: WWE

WrestleMania 33
Main Event: Goldberg (WC) vs. Brock Lesnar
Best Match in Hindsight: Not the Main Event.

Out of 32 WrestleManias that have occurred, the actual Main Event has only been remembered as the events true “Showstopper” twelve (12) out of 32 times. In twenty occasions, another match on the card has stolen the show. Granted, these are the opinions of the author, but I’d wager while we may not agree on the “best match in hindsight” on many of them, we’d probably still pick a different match than the actual Main Event. Shawn Michaels was so good at stealing the show that he earned that moniker “Mr. WrestleMania” from that ability (it sure wasn’t from his win-loss record, 6 Wins, 11 Losses, in 17 WrestleMania match-ups).

Photo: WWE

Which is really what WrestleMania is all about. While the card is based around the kayfabe booking of a fictional wrestling promotion (that just happens to also be called the WWE), the main event is booked simply as the one that the company thinks will attract the most eyes at the end of the day – from hardcore purists to the most casual of fans. But it’s the entire card that is truly on display. Simply being on the card is an opportunity to not only etch your place in immortality, but a chance to steal the spotlight in the annals of history to be the match that fans talk about for generations to come.

Photo: WWE

Which is ultimately, the point that CM Punk seemed to have missed when he lambasted about not getting that spot. The actual spot is moot when you consider the world of kayfabe that the story is ultimately being told in. The matches themselves live on based on how they’re presented, not when they occur – more people talk today about Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart at WrestleMania X (which opened the show) than Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice at WrestleMania 8 or Triple H vs Batista at WrestleMania 21.

Photo: WWE

It’s called The Showcase of the Immortals, not the Main Event of the Immortals. Getting a ticket to the dance is just the beginning and whether you get the final dance or the first kiss depends on the sacrifices one is willing to make and the willingness of the participants to put their bodies on the line and tell a story that will transcend the moment and last forever.

So perhaps instead of complaining about the rumoured Main Event of Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar at this year’s Grandest Stage of Them All, think about the stellar line-up that is beneath it. And watch with an open mind – and an open heart – because years from now, at least one of those “undercard” matches will be an iconic match you’ll still be talking about.

Photo: WWE

Main Photo: WWE

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Jamie Greer is the Managing Editor and lead writer for Last Word on Pro Wrestling. A lifelong wrestling fan who started with the WWF in the early 80’s, he now follows everything from the smallest indie to WWE. He’s also written for WrestleZone, The Windsor Star, Windsor Independent and other publications. He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and son.

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